New contract would hike salaries for Stamford special education paraeducators by $4K yearly | #Education


STAMFORD — A new union contract will bump up the salaries of all of Stamford school district’s paraeducators in an effort to draw such professionals to the district and encourage them to stay.

The city’s Board of Finance was briefed on the terms of the four-year contract last week. Thomas Mooney, a partner at Shipman & Goodwin LLP who served as legal counsel to the Board of Education during negotiations, told the finance board that paraeducators have become “an essential element of delivering educational services to students” over the years.

“And given that evolution, it’s imperative that the Board of Education attract and retain qualified paraprofessionals — and it’s been a huge problem for the board to do that,” Mooney said.

The district had 27 vacant paraeducator positions as of the end of April, according to a report from Director of Finance Ryan Fealey. Most of those open positions were for special education paraeducators.

In the first year of the new contract, which will go into effect July 1, the salaries for special education paraprofessionals will increase by $4,000 a year. The salaries for other paraeducators will increase by $1,500 a year.

“Our special ed paras have, a lot of times, very difficult jobs to do with students that need a lot of extra attention,” Board of Education President Jackie Heftman told The Stamford Advocate. “And we wanted to enhance the salary schedule for special ed paras, hoping that we would be able to fill some of these positions that we have yet been unable to fill.”

After the first year, the salaries for all paraeducators will increase 3.5 percent each year until 2026. Over the second and third years of the contract, the two lowest salary steps will be eliminated.

And every year of the contract, paraeducators who aren’t already at the top of their salary schedule will advance a step.

The Board of Education’s Labor Committee approved the contract this week. The full board is expected to vote on it June 28.

The school district won’t comment on the agreement until it is approved by the Board of Education, spokesperson Justin Martin said. Matt Geer, a regional director for the United Public Service Employees Union, also did not wish to comment before the board’s approval.

The wage increases will add about $1.5 million to the cost of paraeducator salaries in the first year of the new contract and then roughly $600,000 each year after, according to a memo from Fealey to the Board of Finance.

If the contract is approved, paraeducators hired after July 1 will take part in a contribution-based retirement plan instead of the traditional pension plan that current employees have. Fealy said the change is expected to lower costs, but Stamford’s actuaries will need to perform an analysis to estimate how much.

Per the city’s charter, the Board of Finance must “render an advisory opinion to the Board of Education of the total cost and potential long-term burden” of potential contracts. The board voted unanimously last week to issue a “favorable” advisory opinion.

Before the vote, Dennis Mahoney, a Republican member of the board, asked Mooney whether the paraeducators’ agreement could affect negotiations with other school employees’ unions.

Mooney said he didn’t believe so, “because of the unique fact that the paras are so lowly compensated, and that we are addressing a specific need.”


brianna.gurciullo@hearstmediact.com



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